My Favorite GPS System
I have been using the Garmin Foretrex 401 extensively over the course of three years, primarily for hiking and backpacking. It has endured years of dirt, sweat, water, and mud, and it keeps on working. See the attached photo of me using the Foretrex during a Zombie obstacle course mud run. It survived. I did not. And neither did my HTC phone I forgot in my pocket. :-)
It has finally begun to show some minor signs of rust near the battery terminals, most likely due to moisture introduced by me changing out batteries with sweaty hands, etc. However, if and when it does fail, I will buy it again without any hesitation.
My primary purchase decision points were weatherproofness, durablility, size, weight, and the fact I could wear it on my wrist. It has been with me on so many adventures, and it has not let me down. In fact, this device has helped me out of some really tough jams.
Like any GPS technology, there is a learning curve. But that's really just the nature of orienteering. The device itself is actually pretty simple, but you really do need to understand how to use the tool before putting yourself in any tough situation. I would advise anyone to take a GPS navigational class. I did not, and it took me a while to really figure things out. Lots of reading and experimentation.
You do not get any topographic views like larger units, but I always carry maps, and suppliment them with my GPS. If I have reliable track data from a trusted source, I install them before my trip so I can navigate efficiently. But often times, I end up just creating my own desired paths and waypoints, and it's always a ton of fun reaching destinations with the help of my Foretrex.
Even if I go on last minute trips without preloaded tracks, I am confident that I can always find my way back. As soon as I turn it on, I typically calibrate the compass, clear any previous track and trip data, and create a brand new waypoint of my starting position. The device will keep an accurate log of where I've been, and I just add waypoints for each point of interest and trail intersection along the way. When I am ready to return, I use the track back feature which gives me pretty accurate ETA info.
Where I find it lacking is the rather short number of characters I can use in the names of saved waypoints and tracks. The number of saved tracks is also fairly limited. The most frustrating limitation that plagues so many of Garmin devices I've researched is the number of track points, or breadcrumbs, that you can import in a single track. It's only about 500 trackpoints! If you try to import a saved track that has more than that, it truncates the entire track, so you must first simplify the track data before the import to avoid that problem. Irritating, but again, this is not a problem isolated to the Garmin Foretrex 401.
I highly recommend this unit. Have fun and be safe!
Great, versatile little gadget
I have had this device since January 2011 now and it has been a blast to have and use. I started using it for downhill & backcountry skiing. Was able to finally see just how fast I go. 76mph so far and I'm shooting for 80mph this season! Not believing that reading was accurate, I turned it on in my vehicle and compared it to my speedometer, as well as the GPS in my vehicle. Dead on accurate, and faster to adjust to my changing speed than the GPS in my vehicle. It's a blast to upload the map info and see where I skied laid over a Google Earth map. I did the same thing with mtn biking this summer. It's also a great little tool for when I hike 14ers here in Colorado. This thing is so diverse that I go almost nowhere without it. The biggest issue I've had is with Garmin's online website called "GarminConnect". That site has been a pain constantly. It's not easy to find a link to it from other pages on Garmin's web site. The instructions there are not very clear, and the default settings will really screw up your data from the ForeTrex. I've compared the data on my ForeTrex to other sources and it is actually more accurate than the tranlated info you will see on GarminConnect. My advice is don't use the GarminConnect info as factual. It's probably close, but certainly not reliable. On frustration on the ForeTrex itself is that I haven't been able to figure out how to stop tracking and start a new one without turning the unit of then back on again. The manual information is not easily (for me) understood. It must have been written by engineers who often assume everybody else knows what they know already.
Also someone commented that it doesn't work well with WinVista. I have Vista Home Premium (64-bit) and that has not been an issue at all. I can't speak to Win 7, but really what does work well with Windows? Even Internet Explorer crashes constantly, but I digress...
I love my ForeTrex and use it constantly. My buddies laughed at me for having this "gadget" initially. Now they're always asking me what it reads for speed, distance, elevation, etc. Then I send them the uploaded data on Google Earth and we have a blast pouring over the routes.
I've used Garmin's support by Email a couple times. Pretty lame actually. They lose interest or forget they were working with you or something. Next time I'll try the 800 phone number and see if that's better.
Does what is stated
I use this daily for cycle training and for hiking. I've read some comment about slow to catch Sat. signal but mine grabs 6 in around 90 seconds from power-up and I live near tall buildings and tons of trees.
Con:maps? According to the description of what the unit provides "maps" is NOT one of them.
GPS waas battery life is triple the life of my other expensive GPS units. I just use common copper-top AAA's which I trickle recharge 2 times each.
Compass works ok and if you can move 2 meters the GPS picks up any slack in direction finding.
Altimeter is more than accurate enough for training and accurate enough for navigation unless you're surveying a new train route through the Himalayas.
Sunrise/Sunset is handy to keep you legal in the field and on city streets.
Barometer is handy for cross country planning or huddled in the snow wondering if it's blowing over or more is coming in.
You can also upload routes to the watch using 3rd party free software with just a few simple clicks of the mouse.
Garmin Connect is a must to pinpoint your weaknesses and customize your training to target them or to just visually track your progress in general.
Rain proof. I use this approx. 300 days a year, rain, snow and blazing sun.
The screen is slightly recessed which protects it.
The only thing I wish was a couple button pushes less is the "reset trip data". Other than that I really like this unit and for the $ it's a heck of a deal.
streamlined, light, functional
The toughest thing about this gps is figuring out what it does and how. The manual is just a few pages. First, I believe it to be the lightest gps on the market. It can display your coordinates in any format you choose. You can manually enter waypoints if you know the coordinates (taken from a map) or set a waypoint at your current location. You can navigate to any waypoint from your current location. The gps unit will give you your current distance from your destination, and using the electronic compass, point you in the right direction. If you turn the compass off, then you must be moving inorder for the 'gps compass' to work. The interesting difference between the electronic and gps compass is the the electronic compass knows which direction the unit is pointed whereas the 'gps compass' only knows which direction the unit is moving. You'll see the difference in the field. The point is, if you turn on your gps and want to quickly know which direction to go, you need the electronic compass on. Otherwise you need to have a compass and map handy. Of course you can always, in emergencies, turn on the gps and figure out where you are on a map. Also, takes AAA batteries, same as your headlamp. Perfect to carry around incase of emergencies.
Excellent user GPS, mainly for adv user.
This is an excellent product for the right user. This is a perfect unit for most military operations where a GPS is used to send command current locations as well as giving accurate LAT/LONG to aircraft for support. This is also very good at using as a way to confirm current location on the map. This is not a substitute for navigation aids such as maps, charts or compasses. The jumpmaster function is a good additional tool for the military professional and is used by civilian jumpers wishing to have a way to verify where they are in case of an emergency. I have used this product overseas as well as the 101 model. The newer sensitive receiver is what makes this unit stand out. If you are military you will want the 301 or 401. If you are looking for a GPS incase you get lost this is a good unit for you. If you are looking for a one stop navigation tool this unit is not for you.
Great, Lightweight GPS for Navigation
Probably the best lightweight GPS for serious navigation I've seen. Strapping it to your wrist is very convenient, and the strap attachment is vastly better than the watchband pins on the Foretrex 101 (Previously, my favorite GPS). The altimeter, compass and barometer are nice additions and the 401 locks in on satellites quickly. No one should ever go into the wild without topos, which makes the display features on more expensive GPS units fun to play with but not really essential. I usually turn on the GPS for a few minutes, verify my location, sight the next landmark on my route and shut it off. That saves batteries and allows me to check out the scenery rather than admire the pretty color screen on a larger, heavier GPS unit that costs twice as much. The one improvement I would suggest is a feature that allows users to track barometer readings over time. Can't say how the accessories work with the 401 -- not how I use it.
It's perfect for outrigger competition
I searched for months for a GPS that fit my needs. I paddle for a outrigger club and needed to know our speed on the water, time, sunset, stop watch, compass directions and tracking back to shore. Sometimes out in the ocean a fog blanket would drop and you're in the dark, lost, no idea where you are. I look at my Garmin and follow the tracker back to shore. The compass was an extra but glad I got it. On clear days I can track my destination and return without missing my mark. Not only is it great for outriggering, I use it to travel. Walking in Rome, lost in the small streets, push my button and it tracks me back to my hotel without the frustration and confusion. I haven't used the elevation but maybe I can fit it in someday. All in all, I feel safe out in the water/European city knowing I can get back home/to the hotel.
One of the Best Compact GPS ever used.
I was issued this product while in the service and it was amazing for its size and durability. It's extremely accurate and has numerous features that can be used for various applications even skydiving (it has a jumpmaster feature I hope to try out sometimes this year). I also use this to keep track of my distance while running in remote areas where gauging distance is difficult. I use it in conjunction with the heart rate monitor which provides a semi accurate reading (gets you in the ballpark which is for what I need). The issues I've had with this GPS is wishing the AAA batteries would last longer I started using this threw a night movement and Im thinking the light on it probably took quite a bit of juice out of it. Overall if your looking for something compact with lots of features and durability this is a pretty good GPS.
Perfect for my use.
Great light weight unit for dismounted military stuff. Easy to mount on arm or weapon. All I need is something that displays my location. I always carry a map and compass so I don't need a big map display. Only problem was the strap. I removed it and replaced it with one from 215 Gear, then it was perfect. Unit picked up signal while sitting inside an up-armored humvee. Was easy to load track onto Google Earth in order to document routes.
When friends want to borrow a GPS though, I don't give them this one. It isn't for people that only have a casual understanding of land navigation. You should certainly have a paper map and understand how to plot your location using what ever form of coordinates you use.
Excellent Tiny GPS Unit
The Foretrex 401 strikes me as a marvel of modern technology. Here you can have a high-sensitivity GPS receiver that is small enough to fit on your wrist, but is powered by AAA batteries. While there are no fancy maps or color screens, you get a GPS that is great for basic navigation from Point "A" to Point "B". Excellent unit for recording track logs while exercising, marking spots while hiking, and for augmenting a map & compass. The 401 does have the electronic compass and altimeter -- neat features, although you can turn the electronic compass off to save battery life. Unfortunately, there is no way to display GPS altitude on the 401 (but you can on the Foretrex 301 which has no altimeter.)